Upsets Continue at Philippine Open Pool Championships
Day Three: World champs, top players get door in Philippine Open
by Frederico Makabenta
Down to its last two days, the Philippine Open Pool Championships is turning out to be one of the most unpredictable, surprising opens and most competitive tournaments ever staged. As the tournament approaches its penultimate day this Sunday (April 10}, there is still no clear frontrunner. Matches are not being decided according to seedings, rankings and reputation. World champions have fallen by the wayside. And players coming from the qualifiers look just as formidable as the ranking players.
At the end of the day, reigning World Ten Ball champion Mika Immonen of Finland, double world champion Ronnie Alcano of the Philippines, world’s No.1 woman player Ga Young Kim of Korea, and reigning World Women’s 9-Ball champion Fu Xiao-Fang of China had all been shown the exit door, while those who looked invincible in the first two days of the tournament suffered stinging setbacks.
Only 16 men are still left standing, and only 12 remain in the women’s division, as the battles continue to heat up this Sunday.
Immonen, the reigning world 10-ball champion, ran into a wall called Jerico Banares. He fell by the score of 7-9, in a thrilling afternoon match. Breaks did not go Immonen’s way. Until the 16th rack, the player known as The Iceman continued to struggle. Worst, he scratched the cue ball that could have given him a chance to force a hill-hill showdown. Banares wasted no time as he ran out the remaining balls to post the win and oust the man who only two years ago conquered Manila to become the world 10-ball champion. “I got lucky in the breaks. He had good breaks as well, but he could not get a clear shot at the balls,” said Banares, a former national junior champion of the Philippines.
But Banares’ luck ran out just a few hours later when he lost to Abdulah Al Yousuf of Kuwait, 6-9. Al Yousuf was also responsible for eliminating Alcano, 9-4. The Filipino champion who once owned the World 9-Ball and World 8-Ball championships, has complained about the mandatory timeout rule. Under the new rule, players can only take a five-minute break during the halfway mark of the match.
Al Yousuf went off to a blazing start. He raced to a 5-0 lead and was poised to put the game away when Alcano made the match more exciting, winning the next three racks. The Kuwaiti bet bounced back and grabbed the next rack for a 6-3 lead before both players were given a short break. But Al Yousuf, who showed his breaking prowess, got three of the next four racks.
In the 12th rack, Alcano got the better of the safety exchanges. His ploy worked well when he managed to get a clear shot on ball No.1 and eventually cleaned up the table. But a scratch off the break in the next rack ended Alcano’s hopes of a rally, and Al Yousuf calmly disposed of the remaining balls one by one, to take the match and move on in the tournament.. “Allan (Cuartero) has been helpful in giving information on how Filipino players play,” said Al Yousuf. “Also, this campaign is dedicated to my ailing father, who has a serious heart condition,” said Yousuf.
In the women’s division, Ga-Young Kim and Xiao-Fang Fu also got the boot earlier than expected. Kim was close to wrapping up the match until Lin Yuan Chun of Chinese Taipei made a last-minute spirited charge and came away with a come-from-behind win. Lin, a former Amway World Women’s Champion, refused to quit. Playing with her back against the wall, Lin rallied from 6-8 down before edging Kim in a hill-hill encounter. Her triumph had the makings of a classic encounter.
Forced to exchange safety shots with Kim, Lin was able to pocket a spectacular bank shot on the No. 9 in the corner. She nailed the final ball and managed to come to within one, 7-8. In the next rack, Lin kept her composure. She ran out the balls and looked destined to complete a remarkable come-from-behind win. In the 17th and final rack, there was no stopping the Taiwanese lass from booting out Kim while keeping her own hopes alive in the tournament.
Fu, the Chinese pool sensation, and European Tour veteran Kelly Fisher also played in a hill-hill encounter. With both of them playing in a do-or-die situation, neither player refused to give an inch, but Fisher, a former US Open champion, came out victorious in the end.